In the depths of south Louisiana’s waterways lurks the Armiteauxsaurus, the vicious monster that taunts kids with brightly colored bubbles then swallows them.
Some people don’t believe in its legend, while others tread carefully at the Amite River’s Armiteaux Crossing, the place for which the creature is named. It’s here where it stands in a bulky swamp, its only danger being the poisonous snakes that may congregate around its roots.
Or so it would seem.
But those who believe in its legend can tell you about the monster’s three mouths, one that gives way to a bottomless pit and another filled with jagged teeth that gather carcasses.
The show runs through Wednesday, Aug. 12, marking the LSU School of Art’s 14th annual summer invitational exhibition. This year’s show features work by 52 artists, each offering an interpretation of the meaning of “mystic.”
“I was thinking about how magic happens in reality when I came up with this theme,” gallery director Malia Krolak says. “I thought about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels, how magic just happens in everyday life in his stories and everyone just rolls with it. And then I started thinking about the lyrics to Van Morrison’s song, ‘Into the Mystic.’ That’s what I wanted these artists to think about while creating something mysterious, magical and mystical.”
And Mayers’ idea of mystical was introducing his legend of the Armiteauxsaurus, which originated in his imagination, so there probably won’t be any reality television personalities searching for it anytime soon.
Then again, Mayers’ collection of creatures could carry several seasons of such a series.
The Baton Rouge artist’s work often focuses on monstrous creatures in Louisiana nature, incorporating elements of their environment into the composition.
For instance, in “Armiteauxsaurus Crossing,” Mayers depicts the monster in a realistic setting, framing the painting with mud collected from the river bank. This has become a tradition on Mayers’ monster searches in Louisiana’s swamps, bayous and rivers.
“I visit places that I have an interest in and a history with,” Mayers says. “The mud I gather feels and smells different at each place. It’s important for me to do this, to make artwork connected to nature. I lived in New Orleans for six years, and I’m back here again, and I feel more connected with the land.”
Mayers takes out his iPhone and begins thumbing through photos of his creature paintings. All thrive in Louisiana’s natural beauty, which makes them more ominous.
For instance, in “Armiteauxsaurus Crossing,” the creature lives in the kind of lush greenery usually found in Technicolor paradises in classic films. And though it appears harmless enough, there’s something off-putting about it, something that screams, “Warning: Tread Carefully.”
“I often take reference photos of the environment,” Mayers says. “I found this scene off a trail near the Amite River. I’ve been creating mythologies for our culture.”
This ongoing series also is a way for Mayers to pay tribute to the French-speaking Louisiana culture, something he didn’t know growing up in Baton Rouge.
His grandmother spoke French, as did other family members in south Louisiana. After attending a five-week French immersion program at the Université Sainte-Anne last spring in Church Point, Nova Scotia, Mayers has made preserving the culture one of his goals.
The legends of his creatures are printed in both English and French on the gallery label, which hangs among the work created by LSU faculty, alumni and local artists, including a watercolor of a wolf howling at the moon titled “Rose,” by the late Michael Crespo.
Other artists’ names also will be familiar, including Randell Henry, whose sculpture “Female Figure” nearly stretches the height of a gallery wall; Stephen Wilson, who abandoned his usual stained glass work to create “Nebulae Petras” from creek rocks, dinosaur teeth, petrified wood, glass and tile; and Denise Greenwood Loveless, whose sculpted angel hovers over the gallery floor in “A Calling Forth.”
And Mayers’ Armiteauxsaurus lurks among them, stirring magic into the mystic.